In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about food as medicine.
In the case of fish, this topic may ring true.
A recent study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, concluded that the consumption of fish may correlate with lower disease activity in people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The researchers found that, simply put, fish and other types of seafood may lower inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is the key
RA is the autoimmune form of arthritis, of which inflammation is a hallmark.
Reducing this inflammation is key in managing the debilitating condition.
Researchers involved in this study — their findings were published in Arthritis Care & Research medical journal — set out to find out if eating fish showed some benefits for people with RA.
In a statement to the press, Dr. Sara Tedeschi stated, “If our finding holds up in other studies, it suggests that fish consumption may lower inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis disease activity.”
She added, “Fish consumption has been noted to have many beneficial health effects and our findings may give patients with rheumatoid arthritis a strong reason to increase fish consumption.”
What researchers found
As reported by The New York Times, Tedeschi and her co-authors looked at data from 176 people with RA in the ESCAPE-RA study.
They utilized a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the study participants in the ESCAPE-RA cohort group.
The researchers considered the frequency of fish consumption in a food questionnaire detailing patients’ usual diets.
The research showed that people with RA who consumed fish at least two times per week had lower disease activity compared with individuals who ate fish once per month or less.
Measurables, in regard to disease activity, included swollen or tender joint counts, along with pain ratings, and more.
“Findings suggest that higher intake of fish may be associated with lower disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis patients,” said the authors of the study in a public joint statement.
One problem in this study, perhaps, is the cross section of individuals being studied. It wasn’t exactly inclusive or diversified.
“The ESCAPE-RA cohort was predominantly white, well-educated, married patients with longstanding rheumatoid arthritis, thus our results may not generalize to other populations,” Tedeschi and her co-authors noted.
But that doesn’t mean that people of all backgrounds shouldn’t still heed the advice to incorporate more fish into their diets, barring any food allergies, the researchers said.
In fact, a diet heavy in fish and seafood has been recommended for people with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as RA.
The Mediterranean and paleo diets (both heavy in fish and animal products) are also often recommended for people with RA and auto-inflammatory conditions, as seen in Prevention magazine.
Reaction from RA patients
What do people with RA think?
In a poll on the Arthritis Ashley Twitter feed, when asked if eating fish helped to ease RA symptoms, 25 percent of respondents said “Yes,” 25 percent said “No,” and 50 percent didn’t know.
Other patients felt similarly.
“Personally, I don’t think any food helps my symptoms. I’ve had RA for too long to believe in all of the diet fads, so I’m doubtful,” Jeanine Certo of Missouri, who has had RA for 25 years, told Healthline.
Kim Geisler of Pennsylvania disagreed.
She told Healthline, “I’m willing to try whatever it takes to manage my pain and if that means eating fish, I’ll eat fish. I do feel lighter, and healthier when I incorporate fish in my diet, and I think it could help reduce inflammation possibly.”
Holistic nutrition health coach Melissa Smith, from Ohio, said she encourages all patients to eat fish, whether they have arthritis or not.
“It’s just a lean, healthy protein. Good for anyone, even people without RA,” she told Healthline.